Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson

    What a story. Short, easy to read non-fiction, yet engrossing and feels like a true crime novel. I was captivated. Here is my Book Review The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson

    Birds of a Feather

    Since I fancy myself an amateur birdwatcher, this book really captivated me with some of the history of the fashion rage of the 1800’s that made many birds extinct or nearly. This part of the story will make me even more keenly aware, as we bird watch endangered aviary around the world. Johnson takes the reader through historical accounts from Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace’s theory’s to climate change and extinction. This, side by side with a remarkable tale of one man’s obsession with feathers, fly-tying and obtaining rare and illegal bird skins.

    Who is Edwin Rist

    This is a true story, but so absurd it is hard to believe. Much of this book reminded me of The Art Thief by Michael Finkle which is also a true story of a brilliant yet deranged young man named Stephane Breitwieser who gets away with stealing art from museums for years.

    Edwin Rist, the young man in the Feather Thief, is a brilliant, flutist and champion fly-tyer. Rist decides to break into the British Natural History Museum in Tring, where he single handedly steals nearly 300 birds from the rare and priceless bird collection. All in one night.

    Why Steal Dead Birds?

    Rist had become deeply engaged in the obsessive world of salmon fly-tyers, an industry of men who will pay significant dollars to obtain the feathers they covet for their art of fly-tying. Rist shamelessly steals the birds, sells the feathers and the skins of some of the rarest and oldest specimens on the planet. With no remorse.

    Kirk W. Johnson will himself become obsessed with Rist and the heist and the pursuit of justice. Johnson will spend years researching the files, looking for the missing birds and eventually interviewing Rist himself. The culmination will be this bizarre story of this shocking crime and the man with singular obsession with feathers who gets away with the crime.

    *****Five stars for The Feather Thief by Kirk W. Johnson.

    Thank you for reading my Book Review The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson

    See last week’s book review The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters

    In 1962, a family of Mi’kmaq Indigenous Canadians, on their annual summer trip from Nova Scotia to Maine to earn money picking berries, experience a family tragedy. The disappearance of the youngest child, four-year old Ruthie, will catapult the family and each member into a life of regret, sorry and hope. Here is my book review The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters.

    No Trace

    A tiny girl disappears into thin air. Where has she gone? The search goes on for weeks. Distraught and losing hope, each member of the family handles the loss differently. They return to Nova Scotia, vowing never to work in Maine again.

    But as the years go by, some of Ruthie’s siblings believe she is still alive. While one brother, who can’t forgive himself for taking his eyes off of her for one minute, spirals out of control in sorrow, addiction and personal demons.

    Who Is Norma

    Norma is growing up in an affluent family in Maine with a ridiculously overprotective mother, who smothers her with love and guilt. Norma’s father is distant and refuses to help Norma get out from under her mother’s watchful eye. Only her aunt understands and tries to help Norma deal with her mother’s burdensome love.

    The Story Unfolds

    It’s easy to guess at what is going to happen in this missing person story that pits a poor indigenous family against affluent white Americans. Nearly fifty years pass in this story, with an ending that is less than satisfying, and a plot with many flawed and unrealistic details.

    Liked didn’t love though I learned some interesting things about the indigenous people of Nova Scotia. Thanks for reading my book review The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters.

    ***Three stars for The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters

    Read other Native American stories like my book review The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger and book review The Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers

    See last week’s book review The Women by Kristin Hannah.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Women by Kristin Hannah

    Kristin Hannah has become a powerhouse of strong female character novels, and her latest, The Women continues that theme. I have both loved and liked her work over the years, but my favorites have not always been her top sellers. For instance, I didn’t love The Four Winds (a huge success for her), but I really liked The Great Alone, not as popular as The Four Winds or The Nightingale. But all that said – I have a new favorite. Here is my book review The Women by Kristin Hannah.


    Hannah places the reader in the idyllic California community of Coronado, where we meet Frankie (Frances). Frankie and her brother Finn have grown up with conservative parents, and a patriotic, traditionalist father. The family is so proud of Finn when he heads off to serve in Vietnam. Frankie finds herself at loose ends after Finn is gone…wondering what is next for her? Her mother is pushing Frankie towards marriage but Frankie can’t see herself in that role.

    At Finn’s going away party Frankie meets handsome Ry who ventures to say to Frankie a life changing sentence – “Women can be heroes too”.


    Frankie impulsively joins the Army Nurse Corp. Her father is livid, her mother furious. And then, Finn is dead. The whole beautiful world comes tumbling down, and Frankie is off to Vietnam, not able to get out of her commitment; scarred, grief-stricken, naive.

    The Women

    This is a story about the women of Vietnam. The nameless, faceless heroes – forgotten. The nurses who made it possible for so many male soldiers to return home. The women who witnessed as much carnage, death, chaos and trauma as any man on the front. Hannah does a wonderful job pulling into focus this part of the Vietnam story that most people didn’t know then, and still don’t know today.

    The Women by Kristin Hannah follows the lives of not only Frankie, but her friends Ethel and Barb, as each deals in her own way with the country they return to after their tour of duty. A country torn in two by war, politics and lack of respect for those who served.

    Book Review The Women by Kristin Hannah

    I really enjoyed this book, learned a lot, felt great empathy for the characters and loved the story line. One of my favorite Kristin Hannah books to date. Thanks for reading my book review The Women by Kristin Hannah. By the way, the Afterwards by the author was also intriguing so don’t skip that.

    *****Five stars for The Women by Kristin Hannah. Read last week’s book review After Annie by Anna Quinland

    Want to read another great book about a different kind of female character navigating Vietnam in the early 60’s? I loved Absolution by Alice McDermott.

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    Become a World Traveler  --  Inspire

    My Favorite Wildlife Encounters Around the World

    I’ve been truly blessed with some astonishing wildlife encounters over the past eight years in our world travels. This past year has been particularly memorable, and I thought it would be good time to pull together a post about My Favorite Wildlife Encounters Around the World. I hope you enjoy it.

    Leopard Tanzania

    My Favorite Wildlife Encounters Around the World

    When we started the Grand Adventure Travel Life, I didn’t really set out to discover incredible wildlife. It quickly became apparent however, that fascinating, new-to-us wildlife was going to be a big part of our travels. Wildlife in the jungles, forests and savannas. Birds in the air. Fish and mammals in the sea. Even insects, reptiles and crustaceans became a new fascination for these old folks – always ready to learn something new.

    Elephant Family Etosha National Park Namibia

    The wildlife encounters listed below are by no means the only ones…but they are some of my favorites. Some of these moments simply took my breath away. Gave me pause. Held me in rapture at nature in all her glory.


    Australia. Oh my God. The land of never ending surprises. Of course there are kangaroos, wallabies and koala. There are also immense collections of bird life, reptiles and bugs. There are so many animals in the wild, and in fact it’s astonishing how many kangaroo get hit by cars. Australia blew our mind – and we are planning to return for our third visit in 2025.

    Stork, Nelson Bay Australia
    Mama Roo and Joey, Booderee National Park, Australia
    Great Barrier Reef, Australia


    When we first started talking about Namibia, I wasn’t even sure where it was (just north of South Africa). Our ten day tour in Namibia is still one of our favorite travel experiences. The elephant image below, is in my mind, the best photo I ever took. It was easy though…so much beauty everywhere we turned.

    Black Rhino Etosha National Park Namibia
    Lion King, Etosha National Park Namibia
    Sunset Elephant, Etosha National Park Namibia


    To celebrate my 60th birthday we splurged on a Mountain Gorilla Trek in Uganda. Life changing. If you can make this happen once in your life, do it.

    Silverback Dominant Male, Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
    One Year Old Gorilla, Uganda
    Happy Birthday to me!


    I’ve told this story before about how when I was a child we had a picture book with a tarsier on the glossy cover. I was terrified of that animal. Seeing it in the wild in Philippines was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Tiny and harmless, I love these animals so much. We also had one of our best snorkel days in the Philippines…swimming with millions of sardines.

    Teeny nocturnal Tarsier, Bohol Philippines
    Snorkleing at Ningaloo Reef Panglao Philippines


    Our most recent wildlife adventure was a ten-day private tour in Madagascar. I was mostly looking forward to seeing the baobab trees, and was hoping we would see a few lemurs. Oh my goodness. Lemurs and so much more. It was an absolute joy and I am so glad we did this tour.

    Indri – the largest of all the Lemurs in Madagascar
    Fascinating chameleons all over Madagascar
    Sifika Lemur Madagascar


    Botswana was a quick visit while also visiting Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe. But our brief visit afforded us some fabulous wild life encounters including lots of hippopotamus in the Zambezi River.

    Large male elephant, Chobi National Park Botswana
    Curious giraffe, Chobi National Park Botswana
    The hippopotamus is one of the most dangerous animals in the world

    Papua New Guinea

    I did not take this photo (Thank you Canva), but seeing the Bird of Paradise in Papua New Guinea was a dream come true. In fact, we saw several different species of Bird of Paradise, as well as multiple other very special and beautiful birds. Astounding.

    Raggiana Bird of Paradise Papua New Guinea

    Sri Lanka

    We loved our visit to Sri Lanka, a country many people overlook. We started our three week visit with a six day tour, that included a visit to Yala National Park. Yala is home to a giant population of Asian Elephants. It was the most elephants in one place I had ever seen. We also had a wonderful up close and personal encounter with a beautiful and camouflaged leopard.

    Beautiful leopard
    Asian elephant, Yala National Park Sri Lanka


    I had always wanted to see the Orangutans, and so when we decided to spend a couple of months in Malaysia, I began to research how to spend a few days on the island of Borneo and visit the Sepilok Reserve. We did this four day visit without a tour guide, it was very easy to do. We loved the Sepilok Forest Edge Lodge and the fact we could walk to the Orangatan Reserve. AND seeing the incredible Proboscis Monkeys was an added bonus!

    This orangutan just mosied past me on the walkway!
    Funny looking and beautiful too – Proboscis Monkey
    Mama and baby at the Sepilok Reserve

    Costa Rica

    Our three week visit to Costa Rica with our dear friends was one of the most memorable trips we have made. Not only did we get to see sloths for the first time, the turtles and bird life was spectacular.

    Stand up Paddle Board and Sea Turtle spotting in Mal Pais Costa Rica
    What a beauty, Fortuna Costa Rica
    Sleeping Sloth, Fortuna Costa Rica


    We spent six weeks on the island of Roatan Honduras and I would definitely go back. There are several reserves set up on the island to protect and conserve remaining wildlife. I think our favorite moments though were spotting beautiful Red Macaws right near our condo and the giant and docile iguana

    Macaws are the national bird of Honduras
    The biggest iguana I have ever seen, Roatan Honduras


    We came for the scenery and the midnight sun, and we were not disappointed. Wildlife was a bonus and our favorite things were the wild reindeer and the beautiful puffins. I did not take this puffin photo (Thank you Canva), we were not this close, but Iceland did not disappoint and I encourage everyone to visit that incredible country.

    Wild Reindeer, Iceland
    Puffin (Canva)

    New Zealand

    We loved our seven week visit to New Zealand, although we loved it mostly for the beauty, scenery and hiking. We did not encounter much wildlife on this trip, but at the very end of our visit we stumbled on a biologist tagging Kiwi birds. Kiwi are incredibly shy and are rarely seen by visitors or locals. So to be able to meet this beautiful bird before she was released back into the brush was very special.

    The sweet, shy Kiwi bird, national symbol of New Zealand


    Although this trip was before we launched the Grand Adventure, our week touring the Galapagos Islands for my fiftieth birthday is one of our favorite memories of our travel life. Teeming with fascinating animals and bird life, it’s a memorable and once in a lifetime destination. Just go.

    Galapagos land Iguana – he smiled at me!
    Underwater delights, Galapagos
    Blue Footed Boobies, Galapagos
    Male Frigate bird showing off, Galapagos


    Of course, since I am an American, I have had many opportunities to see wildlife in my own big country. Montana is a favorite, Hawaii too, New England as well as my own great state of Washington where I spend my summers.

    Sea Turtles are protected in Hawaii
    Monk Seals are also protected in Hawaii – stay clear
    Young Grizzly, Glacier National Park Montana
    Porcupine in Maine

    There is More

    There is more…but I think these I’ve listed here remain some of my all time favorites. And I’m not done yet…we have lots more travel in our future, as we explore and show reverence to Mother Nature and the fascinating wildlife of our planet.

    Lioness, Nambia

    My Favorite Wildlife Encounters Around the World

    Nature teaches us so much about the fragility of our world, and careful, sustainable travel provides so many opportunities to understand nature better. I have been so incredibly blessed to have had so many amazing up close and personal wildlife experiences – My Favorite Wildlife Encounters Around the World.

    See last week’s post A Day Trip to Bratislava Slovakia.

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    Howler Monkey Costa Rica

    NOTE : With this blog post I end year eight of our Grand Adventure. I will be taking several weeks, possibly a couple months, off from posting new blog material. We have fall travel planned, I’ll be back before that, but in the meantime, I want to be present here in the USA with my family. Thanks for your continued support – I’ll be back…

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review After Annie by Anna Quindlen

    Sad but beautiful novel about grief and loss. Here is my book review After Annie by Anna Quindlen


    Suddenly everything changed. Annie – wife, mother, friend, nurse. One day she is all of these things, and then she is gone. Annie’s sudden death from a brain aneurism will unravel those who loved and needed her most.

    Family & Friends

    A women like Annie, is the kind of person who you think will just always be there. Fierce and funny, despite an overbearing mother in law, Annie loves her husband Bill and her four children and the family is tight. Annie leaves behind oldest daughter Ali, whose own grief at the loss of her mom right in front of her eyes, is pushed aside as Ali struggles to care for her younger siblings, as her father unravels.

    Annie’s lifelong friend Annemarie, a recovering addict, also begins to unravel after the loss of her friend, her rock. Annie was Annemarie’s lifeline, keeping her sober after several near death experiences. But with Annie gone Annemarie begins to find her grief is forcing her back to old habits.

    Moving Forward

    Ali, Bill and Annemarie will all suffer excruciating grief as they learn to grapple with the loss of this immense figure in their lives. But as the clock slowly ticks each will begin to move forward, by realizing how much strength Annie herself has gifted them before her death. They will grow and endure, just as Annie would want them to.

    This is a story of hope, love, strength and finding understanding after profound change. This is what happened After Annie. ****Four stars for After Annie by Anna Quindlen.

    Thank you for reading my book review After Annie by Anna Quindlen. See last week’s book review Knife by Salman Rushdie.

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    Europe Travel

    One Day in Bratislava Slovakia

    Location: Bratislava Slovakia

    The tiny medieval town of Bratislava is often a stop on Danube river cruises. It’s an easy town to wander on your own, or take an organized tour. It’s also a very easy day trip from Vienna – which is how we we visited and spent One Day in Bratislava Slovakia.

    Bratislava Castle

    Day Trip

    We visited as a day trip from Vienna, where we had spent a week (Visiting Vienna Austria). There are a couple of options for getting to Bratislava. Twin City Liner is a hydrofoil option, you can book direct or go on a guided tour. The full-day tour leaves from Vienna and gives you several hours to wander Bratislava as well as enjoy the beautiful Danube. This service is only in available in the summer.

    Since we were in Vienna in late April, we missed the start of the Twin City Liner season by just a week. So, instead we took a bus. We did Flixbus, with multiple daily round-trip options on a beautiful and comfortable coach for under $20 each. By taking Flixbus, we were on our own in Bratislava to make our own choices. But you can also do a guided tour, leaving from Vienna Opera House using Get Your Guide.


    The hour and a half bus ride from Vienna to Bratislava was super easy. We arrived in Bratislava refreshed and ready to walk around. The weather was lovely. We had booked a walking tour at noon, but we had more than an hour to get our bearings. First thing we noticed was so many different gelato stands. Well, 10:30 isn’t too early for gelato! Savoring our treat we walked around the tree-lined pedestrian walkway, admiring the Bratislava Old Town Hviezdoslav Square. This gathering place is home to one of the cities most beautiful buildings, The National Theater, and a statue of Poet Pavol Országh – a famous Slovak.

    Gelato at 10:30 in the morning
    Beautiful tree-lined pedestrian streets
    Slovakia National Theatre

    Walking Tour

    Next we wandered through the pedestrian streets lined with shops and restaurants to admire Saint Michael’s Gate. Completed in the 14th century this beautiful medieval gate is the last from the fortified city. Be sure not to miss it.

    Saint Michael’s Gate

    Now it was time for our walking tour. As always, I promote a walking tour in any and every city we visit. Walking with a local, we were guided to some of the hidden spaces of Bratislava. We started learning about history and culture at the meeting point of Fransiscan Square – home to the 13th century Franciscan Church. Our guide was wonderful with a great grasp on both the old and new of Bratislava. We visited Primates Square where the Parliament is and visited the statue of Saint George.

    Franciscan Square
    Primates Square
    Saint George

    On our way to the famous Blue Church (mostly famous just because it’s blue) we passed by a former location of another gate to the old city. Next we heard a very interesting account of the Bratislava 1989 student uprisings that would eventually bring down communism. In 1992 Slovakia declared itself a sovereign state from the Czech Republic. Czeckolslovakia became two independent nations.

    Blue Church
    Tanks vs People in Student Uprising


    We finished our interesting walking tour by walking out onto Stary Most bridge, a recently rebuilt bridge across the Danube for pedestrians, cyclists and trams. From the bridge we enjoyed seeing all the river cruise boats in port and the beautiful view of the castle up on the hill.

    River boats passing under Stary Most Bridge
    View from Stary Most Bridge

    Let’s Eat

    The national dish of Slovakia is potato dumplings with sheep’s cheese and bacon. So of course I had to try it. Many places in Bratislava serve traditional dishes, but on the suggestion of our walking tour guide we ended up at Meanto and enjoyed sitting outside on the cobbled street. We had cabbage dumplings as well, fried potatoes and garlic soup. It was a delicious meal.

    Dumplings, dumplings, dumplings
    Potato Pancakes
    Garlic Soup

    Bratislava Castle

    Our final stop on our day in Bratislava was the castle, standing sentry atop the hill overlooking the city.

    There is evidence of a settlement here as far back as the 600-500 BC. Coins have been found from the Moravian Empire but in the 12th century the castle began to change. The towers were added in the 13th century and further renovations occurred in the 15th century. The last large scale reconstruction occurred under the reign of Maria Teresa in the late 1700’s.

    Bratislava Castle
    The Gardens

    But in 1811 a devastating fire took the majority of the ancient building down. It sat in ruins for more than 100 years, until reconstruction began in 1953. Today the castle is home to the Slovak National Museum. The grounds and gardens are a lovely place for families to gather and picnic and it is a must visit when in Bratislava.

    The view of the Danube from the Bratislava Castle

    Back to Vienna

    After a full day trip to Bratislava it was time for our return bus to Vienna. Once again the comfy bus safely returned us, with a very brief stop at the border where a border agent glanced at passports before flagging us on.

    One Day in Bratislava Slovakia

    I definitely recommend One Day in Bratislava Slovakia and you should do a walking tour to get the most of your visit. It was a wonderful way to see a new city and a new country for me.

    Thank you for reading my post One Day in Bratislava Slovakia. Be sure to read last week’s post Mad About Madagascar here. You might also enjoy Visiting Vienna Austria here.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Knife by Salman Rushdie

    I have only read two of Salman Rushdie’s books – Victory City and The Enchantress of Florence. And enjoyed them both. I have never read The Satanic Verses, but of course I know the story of the fatwa against Rushdie following the publication of that book. And I knew about the attack that nearly killed him in 2022. I was very happy to hear about his book, certainly part of the long therapy following the harrowing attack. Here is my book review Knife by Salman Rushdie.

    Get Personal

    Rushdie gets very personal in this account of the attempt on his life August 12, 2022. It had been thirty years the the Ayatollah’s fatwa against him. Rushdie – no longer in hiding – was actually speaking at the Chataquah Institution on the topic of keeping writers safe. And that is when I man, dressed all in black came running down the aisle, onto the stage and tried to kill Rushdie.

    Here You Are

    Despite thirty years having passed, at the moment Rushdie thought – “So it’s you. Here you are.” This honest and intimate account of the attack, near death, and months in recovery is some of Rushdie’s best work. Brutally honest and deep, it’s a powerful first hand narrative of life, love, family, friends, mortality, healing and moving forward.


    Rushdie’s account of this near death experience is raw and real and worth a read. An easy read that brings to light how survival mode kicks in, even when everything around you is trying to kill you. I really enjoyed this book. Worth a read. Thanks for reading my book review Knife by Salman Rushdie.

    Book Review Knife by Salman Rushdie

    ****Four stars for Knife by Salman Rushdie. See last week’s book review Loot by Sharon Waxman.

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